Deal with Your Deficiencies!: Calcium
Welcome back to our “Deal with Your Deficiencies” blog series! Today is week 3 of the series, and we will be focusing on the MINERAL CALCIUM. Deficiencies (or insufficient intake for your needs, even when no clinical deficiency is present) can result in some pretty uncomfortable and even scary symptoms. One of the most common symptoms of a mineral deficiency is muscle spasms, as you’ve seen from the graphic below (and in the previous posts in this series). But muscle spasms aren’t the only sign of mineral deficiencies…far from it. In today’s post and the next two weeks’ posts, I’ll be highlighting the roles of the three most important minerals: calcium, magnesium, and potassium, slotting one week for each mineral. Additionally, I’ll be addressing why each of these minerals is important, their role in the body, and how to “deal with your deficiency” once and for all. So without further ado…let’s get into calcium!
The Importance of Calcium
Calcium is a very well-known mineral, and it’s importance is well known, too. But while the NEED for calcium is well-established public knowledge, the ROLE of calcium (and the signs of deficiency) aren’t so well-established as public knowledge. So what IS calcium, and why do we need it?
Calcium is the most plentiful mineral in our bodies, and is necessary for a variety of essential functions within the muscular, skeletal, cardiovascular, nervous, and endocrine systems. The majority of calcium is stored in our bones (a whopping 99% of total body calcium, to be exact) which is why it is commonly characterized as the most important thing for bone health (fun fact: it’s not! But that’s for another post!).
As we know, deficiencies in calcium lead to reduced bone density and even osteoporosis. But low bone mass is far from the only symptom of calcium deficiency. As mentioned above, calcium is important for more than just skeletal health. For instance, calcium is needed for proper muscular contraction (including that of the heart muscle), parathyroid function, blood clotting, hormone secretion, proper dilation and contraction of blood vessels, and even cognitive function. Given this knowledge, you can easily see why it’s important to know ALL the signs (not just the signs within the skeletal system!) of calcium deficiency.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
Other signs of calcium deficiency include: muscle cramps and spasms, muscle pain, extreme fatigue in the muscles, dry skin, eczema or psoriasis, memory problems and/or confusion, reduced bone density, increased fractures, numbness and/or tingling in the hands and feet, weak/flexible/brittle nails, dental problems (cavities, poor enamel, chipping/breaking teeth, gingivitis or bleeding gums), depression, severe PMS in women, and heart arrhythmia/palpitations.
Deal with Your Deficiency!
The best way to confirm a clinical calcium deficiency (aside from the symptoms above) is either a DEXA bone scan or a blood calcium test. A clinical deficiency (hypocalcemia) is present when this level is below 8.8 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
Calcium is a fairly safe mineral to supplement with, even without confirmation of hypocalcemia. If you have more than one of the symptoms listed above, you may want to consider making an effort to increase your consumption of calcium-rich foods, or taking a calcium supplement.
The RDA for calcium for individuals aged 19-50 (barring other factors) is 1,000 mg. In individuals above 50, 1200 mg. However it is CRUCIAL to know that calcium works synergistically with vitamin D (and magnesium) and adequate vitamin D MUST be taken alongside calcium to prevent calcium deposits forming in the body. Calcium will not be properly absorbed (or even absorbed at all, in some individuals) without vitamin D! This is yet another reason why getting our calcium (and all our nutrients) from food is far superior to getting it from supplements. You will notice that all calcium-rich foods in nature ALSO contain abundant amounts of vitamin D.
The best food sources of calcium include grass fed, full-fat dairy products, wild salmon with the bones, sardines, beans and legumes, almonds, kale, spinach, collard greens, and tofu. Remember, though, that phytic acid present in plant foods (grains, beans, and nuts/seeds) can bind to minerals (calcium, iron, zinc) and impair their absorption. It is recommended that, if you cannot consume at least SOME animal-based, calcium-rich foods, that you consider a supplement.
In terms of calcium supplements, you will quickly discover that calcium (along with magnesium) is one of the HARDEST and most confusing supplements to buy. Not for lack of availability—but for the opposite reason. There are COUNTLESS kinds of calcium on the market, and unless you do your research (or ask me in advance!), you are sure to be scratching your head when reading the backs of the bottles.
Calcium citrate is the most common type of calcium, and the best absorbed. Calcium carbonate is the second most common, with the guest elemental calcium level (~40% elemental calcium), but is very poorly absorbed and may cause GI upset. Calcium lactate and calcium glycinate are less common and have both their benefits and drawbacks. If you are wanting to get something as food-based as possible in supplemental form, I recommend opting for a calcium hydroxyapatite supplement, which is the form of calcium found in animal bones and bone meal. If consuming bone meal grosses you out, my second recommendation would be taking a calcium blend supplement like KAL Liquid Calcium. Both of these products are linked below.
So there you have it: a basic rundown of calcium! As you can see, it’s extremely important…and causes way more issues than just muscle spasms and cramps! Next week we will be diving into the SECOND mineral that can cause muscle cramps and spasms: MAGNESIUM. Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss that important info!
*Please note: the links above are affiliate links. I earn a small commission on any purchases made after clicking the links (at NO extra cost to you), which goes towards this website, my work, and the free content I provide. Thank you for your support!
DISCLAIMER: The statements made in this post and in any content provided by Dr. Anna Johnson and Anna's Organics Wellness are the opinions of the author only, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you are experiencing symptoms of a medical problem, seek medical attention immediately or consult your physician for further guidance.